What happens when you rush to correct a mistake you should have seen coming in the first place? You generally create an even bigger headache. Witness, the NHL shootout. Once the shining symbol of the excitement and innovation of the new NHL, the shootout has now degenerated into a shambling comedy of errors, leaving players frustrated and fans perplexed.
When the league discovered that some players were apparently swapping out legal sticks for sticks with illegal curves for the shootout, officials rashly decided it would be a good idea to measure every single stick of every single shootout shooter, leaving the once-electrifying process bogged down in red tape (measuring tape, that is). The league should have simply said they would review the process in the offseason with all other changes, but that for the balance of the season, players would be able to use whichever sticks they wanted given that the shootout is a different process than regular play.
One would hope that by next season the issue of stick curvature will be a moot point entirely with the abandonment of any restrictions on stick curves. Until then, the shootout remains a grand idea needlessly diminished by bureaucracy. -- S.B.
CAUGHT IN THE NETS
No one will ever approach Glenn Hall's mind-boggling record of appearing in 503 straight NHL regular-season games, all sans face protection. In fact, it will be a minor miracle if any goalie ever approaches Grant Fuhr's feat of playing in the first 76 games of the 1995-96 season in St. Louis. But that doesn't mean there aren't netminders who are not afraid of some work.
Martin Brodeur owns the current streak for consecutive games at 29, last taking a seat on the Devils' bench Dec. 29 against Pittsburgh. The Devils have lost three of four, but remain firmly ensconced in a playoff berth. They have 15 games remaining on their schedule, including two sets of back-to-back games, which would lead one to believe that coach Lou Lamoriello will give Brodeur a break along the way.
The same can't be said for rookie Kari Lehtonen, who is truly undergoing a baptism by fire in Atlanta, starting 19 straight games for the Thrashers. And with the team's first playoff berth on the line, coach Bob Hartley has made no bones about the fact it's entirely possible Lehtonen will start every one of the team's remaining 15 games, giving the goalie a streak of 34 straight starts.
According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, the most recent goalie to step in for 30 or more consecutive starts was Tomas Vokoun, who appeared in the final 38 games for the Nashville Predators from Jan. 16 to April 6, 2003. -- S.B.